Sandwiched between the distinct cultural areas of the American South and Northeast, the cultural identity of the D.C. area has always been somewhat in flux, depending on the factors one chooses to cite. A map of American dialects compiled by North Carolina State’s Department of Statistics may offer some insight into this puzzling cultural question.
Joshua Katz, an NC State graduate student who compiled the map from existing data, says that dialect can tell you a lot of about a person and where they’re from.
“To me, dialect is a badge of pride — it’s something that says, ‘This is who I am; this is where I come from,'” said Katz in an interview with The Abstract, NSCU’s research blog.
So what does D.C.’s dialect say?
A North/South question
The U.S. Census bureau has lumped the South Atlantic region, including the D.C. area, in a region designated the “American South.” Indeed, there is some historic precedence for this, as the Mason-Dixon Line runs north of Maryland, as does the parallel 36°30′ north established as the boundary between north and south in the Missouri Compromise.
In terms of dialect, however, D.C.’s connect to the South is somewhat tenuous. When it comes to sandwich spreads, the D.C. area sides with the South and their “man-aze.” So too do residents resist sticking to one pronunciation for route — the “route” to work is often long, especially if one takes “root” 66.